No answers on why club busted over drug sales it sought police help in ending
While saying he did not “know the specifics of the case,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg defended the police department’s legal action against a gym for allegedly allowing a drug dealer to sell there even though the gym’s owner had asked police to arrest the dealer.
“Just because somebody says they want this guy arrested doesn’t mean that’s going to happen,” Bloomberg said at an April 20 press conference when asked about Steel Gym, one of seven businesses that was targeted by the police department’s Civil Enforcement Unit.
Five of the businesses—all clubs or bars—were closed, but have since reopened. Steel Gym, which paid a $1,000 fine, and one nightclub were served with restraining orders, but never closed.
In court records, police charge that a dealer sold meth to an undercover detective in Steel Gym on three occasions last year, once in late October and twice in November.
But on December 2, David Boyer, the gym’s co-owner, said he was told by a member that the alleged dealer, William Zamot, was selling there. Boyer opened Zamot’s locker, seized what he believed were illegal drugs, and only gave them back to Zamot after Zamot threatened him. As this was happening, Boyer had an employee call 911. Zamot left the gym before police came and the police took no action when they arrived.
“They said without any evidence it was just an allegation,” Boyer said in an April 7 interview.
Boyer’s phone records show a 911 call was made at 10:37 in the evening on December 2. The police 911 record, which was read to Gay City News over the phone, show a call was made from the gym at 10:39 in the evening on that day.
Carlos, the employee who called, is named in the police record and he gave a description that matches Zamot. In the April 7 interview, Boyer said that on December 2 he assumed that Zamot was selling steroids and the police 911 records show Carlos said, “Someone is dealing steroids” at the gym.
Boyer was charitable toward Bloomberg.
“I’m sure that if the mayor knew the details of the case he would understand that a mistake was made,” he said.
Paul J. Browne, head of the police department’s press office, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. In an April 24 New York Times story Browne said, “We expect people to keep illegal activity out of their premises. The police have an obligation to stop it if the club operators will not or cannot.”
Keeping “illegal activity” out of his gym would appear to be exactly what Boyer did. Thomas P. Doepfner, an assistant deputy commissioner and the commanding officer of the Civil Enforcement Unit, declined comment without getting permission from the police press office. He told Gay City News, “As I sit here I’m not familiar with all the facts in the case.”
Robert S. Bookman, a partner at Pesetsky and Bookman, a law firm, and the counsel for the New York Nightlife Association, said of the Steel Gym case, “It’s outrageous, but not surprising.”
The Civil Enforcement Unit gets these closing or restraining orders by going to a judge and presenting its evidence without the business owner present or even knowing that the legal action is pending.
“That’s why these ex parte closing orders are a problem, “ Bookman said. “The judge is only seeing one side… I think the judges should be more circumspect in not signing these orders without hearing from the other side.”
Bookman has represented businesses that were subject to these enforcement actions, but he is not involved with Steel Gym. He said that the only time the city should be allowed to close a business without a judge also hearing from its owner is when there are “imminent safety issues” involved.